Rocky Flats Plan,
HAER No. CO-83-P (Rocky Flats Plant, Building 701)
Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site, Highway 93, Golden, Jefferson
County, Colorado. Building 701 is located in the northwest quadrant of the Rocky Flats
Plant between Buildings 776/777 and 771.
This building is a primary contributor to the Rocky Flats Plant
historic district, associated with the U.S. strategy of nuclear military
deterrence during the Cold War, a strategy considered of major importance in preventing
Soviet nuclear attack. The building was used to design, build, and evaluate bench-scale
technologies used in plant waste treatment processes. The main purpose of the research and
design group was to change the form of waste materials for off-site disposal. Information
from the waste treatment research and design projects was applied to waste treatment
processes throughout the site. All process evaluations conducted in Building 701 were done
using non-radioactive materials; once the processes were transferred to the production and
waste treatment facilities, they were applied to radioactive waste. Experimental
laboratory work, primarily regarding cementing techniques, was also done in Building 701.
Building 701 is a relatively small, one-story, rectangular building
that encompasses approximately 5,200 square feet. The building has a metal gabled roof on
a reinforced concrete foundation. Exterior walls are constructed of corrugated metal;
interior walls are constructed of concrete block and gypsum board. The floors are painted
Building 701 originally contained carpenter shops in the east end of the building and
research and design laboratories in the west end. After 1976, only research and design
labs remained in the building.
Built in 1962, Building 701 was a research and design facility used to
design, build, and evaluate bench-scale waste treatment processes. The main purpose of the
research and design group located in this building was to change the form of waste
materials for off-site disposal. Information from the waste treatment research and design
projects was applied to waste treatment processes throughout the site. All process
evaluations conducted in Building 701 were done using non-radioactive materials; once the
processes were transferred to the production and waste treatment facilities, they were
applied to radioactive waste. Experimental laboratory work, primarily regarding cementing
techniques, was also done in Building 701.
Research and Design Projects: In the late 1970s, the use of a rotary-kiln incinerator to combust radioactive waste
was investigated. This type of kiln was later installed in Building 371 for
glove box-generated solid and liquid waste from plutonium processing buildings.
A model of the fluidized bed unit incinerator eventually installed in Building 776/777
was evaluated in Building 701. The fluidized bed unit model was made of glassware to allow
researchers to view the process while the incinerator was operating. The fluidized bed
unit was used to thermally treat low-level radioactive and mixed hazardous waste (liquid
and solid). Researchers in Building 701 continued to evaluate and modify the fluidized bed
unit after its installation in Building 776/777.
During the mid-1980s, the research and design group began laboratory research to
establish the necessary parameters for cementing pond sludge. Cement provided a solid
matrix for isolation of wastes; chemically binding water from the sludge wastes. The
success of solidification with cement depended upon whether or not the waste adversely
affects the strength and stability of the concrete product.
A thin film evaporator was tested as an upgrade for the liquid waste treatment process
used in Building 774. The liquid was evaporated from the waste, leaving a solid. The solid
was then cemented for disposal.
Beginning in the early 1980s and continuing into the 1990s, the research and design
group investigated vitrification technologies. This technology was used to transform waste
into a vitreous glass-like substance, thereby immobilizing the waste to prevent leaching
of hazardous or radioactive compounds into surrounding media. Several different types of
melters were investigated, including joule and induction melters. In the early 1990s, the
research and design group in Building 701 developed a microwave melter to vitrify waste
The final use of the building was to house limited research and design activities. For
example, a process is being developed to stabilize materials containing plutonium and
americium. These materials were once considered a waste because the concentration of
plutonium and americium was below the economic recovery limit. After the disposal
guidelines changed, they were considered a residue. The process being developed would
eventually be conducted in glove boxes.
Nieweg, Ron, employed at the plant since 1970 by the site contractor.
Personal communication, February 1998.
Petersell, Jeff, employed at the plant since 1980 by the site contractor.
Personal communication, December 1997.
United States Department of Energy. Rocky Flats Plant, Final Safety Analysis Report,
Building 371 (1989), by Rockwell International Energy Systems Group. Rocky
Flats Repository. Golden, Colorado, 1989.
United States Department of Energy. Final Cultural Resources Survey Report (1995), by Science Applications International Corporation. Rocky Flats Repository. Golden,
D. Jayne Aaron, Environmental Designer, engineering-environmental
Management, Inc. (e2M), 1997. Judith Berryman, Ph.D., Archaeologist, e2M,
Index to Photographs
Located in the northwest quadrant of the plant between Buildings 776/777 and 771, Golden Vicinity, Jefferson County, Colorado.
Photographs CO-83-P-1 through CO-83-PO-2 were taken by various site photography
contractors, dates are indicated in parentheses.
CO-83-P-1 – View looking northwest at Building 701. Building 701 was used to design, build, and evaluate bench-scale technologies used in Rocky Flats Plant waste treatment processes. (1/98)
CO-83-P-2 – View of the microwave melter developed by the research and development group located in Building 701. The microwave melter transformed waste into a vitreous glass-like substance, immobilizing the waste, so that it could be shipped off site for disposal. (1/31/91)